With its first meeting held on Wednesday, January 27th, Bates was recently introduced to a new organization. The Sexual Assault and Violence Advocacy Club (SAVAC) was started by leaders Charlotte Cramer ’19, Tessa Liebes ’19, Ceri Kurtz ’19 and John Fletcher ’19. The current club name may still transform and possibly change to the Sexual Violence Awareness Club, for there have been misconceptions and misunderstandings that the club advocates for sexual assault. This is far from its intended purpose, which is to raise awareness of and prevent sexual assault and violence.
During its first meeting, Cramer introduced the club’s agenda and goals for the near future, which include discussing the hookup culture at Bates, drinking in college, gender roles and masculinity. It was reiterated that the leaders would be abstaining from rallying and other assertive components, which are often part of raising awareness. The objectives of the leaders are to encourage dialogues. Cramer said discussions would take place during lunch and relate to issues that the students are facing.
Currently, the leaders are working with the Men’s Lacrosse Coach, Peter Lasagna, to start a new program designed for the athletes. Cramer’s decision in choosing to work with the lacrosse team is not biased; it merely coincided with the fact that Lasagna has been supportive of the club’s mission and encourages these discussions.
The goal is to dispel the stigma surrounding these conversations and to remove any pressure or external and internal judgment. If the program is truly effective and fulfills Cramer’s goals, then she will expand it to other athletic teams.
Another aspect of the athletic program involves the screening of “The Hunting Ground” documentary to both genders of a certain team. After, participants will divide based on how they identify themselves—man or woman—in order to discuss the film. The program aims to foster an open conversation regarding athletes’ identities and how they think they are portrayed in the media and at Bates.
The club’s many ambitious plans and goals require the active support of the administration, which has in fact been supportive of club’s goals thus far. Fletcher and Cramer are both looking to create a 24/7 hotline program where students will be trained in a Short Term class to speak to sexual assault and violence victims over phone, text or in person. They will mentor the student until he or she receives more professional help. The training will be rather extensive and will require confidentially on the side of the mentor.
Cramer has also begun working to bring a speaker to Bates, and she has already contacted Amy Oestreicher, a sexual assault survivor. Oestreicher was raped at the age of 17, which led to twenty-seven surgeries, organ failure, coma, six years of being unable to drink or eat, and PTSD from ten years of trauma. The speaker’s agenda may be overwhelming for some students. Therefore, the club members and leaders are still discussing the effectiveness and appropriateness of asking her to speak at Bates.
The leaders believe that it is important for the club to have conversations that are geared towards women sexually assaulting men, for the First-Year Orientation lecture seemed to have put an emphasis on men hurting women. Additionally, the LGBTQ community is often left unacknowledged in these conversations. The often-ignored groups will be brought to light through discussions and programs in an attempt to create a comfortable setting where people can be educated on these issues.
The future of the club is pertinent to both the college and its students, Cramer expressed. “I see the club becoming an influential force on campus,” Cramer said. “I believe that it will challenge Bates College’s perceptions of gender, the hookup culture and alcohol, and hopefully in extension sexual violence on campus.” SAVAC will be meeting every Wednesday for the rest of the semester.